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John Seigenthaler

John Seigenthaler founded the First Amendment Center in 1991 with the mission of creating national discussion, dialogue and debate about First Amendment rights and values.

A former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Seigenthaler served for 43 years as an award-winning journalist for The Tennessean, Nashville's morning newspaper. At his retirement he was editor, publisher and CEO. He retains the title chairman emeritus. In 1982, Seigenthaler became founding editorial director of USA TODAY and served in that position for a decade, retiring from both the Nashville and national newspapers in 1991.

Seigenthaler left journalism briefly in the early 1960s to serve in the U.S. Justice Department as administrative assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. His work in the field of civil rights led to his service as chief negotiator with the governor of Alabama during the Freedom Rides. During that crisis, while attempting to aid Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Ala., he was attacked by a mob of Klansmen and hospitalized.

Seigenthaler hosts a weekly book-review program, "A Word On Words." He is a senior advisory trustee of the Freedom Forum. Since the death of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. he has chaired the Robert F. Kennedy Book Awards for the RFK Memorial, and he formerly chaired the annual "Profile in Courage Award" selection committee of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

Seigenthaler served on the 18-member National Commission on Federal Election Reform organized in 2001 by former Presidents Carter and Ford. He is a member of the Constitution Project on Liberty and Security, created after the Sept. 11 tragedies in New York and Washington.

In 2002, the trustees of Vanderbilt University created the John Seigenthaler Center, naming the building at 18th Avenue South and Edgehill Avenue that houses the offices of the Freedom Forum, the First Amendment Center and the Diversity Institute. The John Seigenthaler Center encompasses 57,000 square feet and includes a three-story expansion that was funded by the Freedom Forum and donated to Vanderbilt.

A chair in First Amendment Studies was endowed for $1.5 million in Seigenthaler's name at Middle Tennessee State University. Scholarship projects are endowed at both Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee State in Seigenthaler’s name.

Seigenthaler is the author of a biography, James K. Polk, published by Times Books and released in January 2004.

The First Amendment Center works nationwide to preserve and protect First Amendment freedoms through information and education. The center, with offices at Vanderbilt and Arlington, Va., serves as a forum for the study and exploration of free-expression issues, including freedom of speech, of the press and of religion, the right to assemble and petition the government.

The Freedom Forum, based in Arlington, Va., is a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit. The foundation focuses on three priorities: the Newseum, the First Amendment and newsroom diversity. The Freedom Forum funds the Newseum, an interactive museum of news under development in Washington, D.C.; the First Amendment Center; and the Diversity Institute. The Freedom Forum was established in 1991 under the direction of Founder Allen H. Neuharth as successor to a foundation started in 1935 by newspaper publisher Frank E. Gannett. The Freedom Forum is not affiliated with Gannett Co. Its work is supported by income from an endowment of diversified assets.

Vanderbilt University is a private research university of approximately 5,900 undergraduates and 4,300 graduate and professional students. Founded in 1873, the university comprises 10 schools and a distinguished medical center along with the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies and the First Amendment Center.


Conversations with John Seigenthaler collection page

Seigenthaler wins Missouri award
By Melanie Bengtson Journalism school's medal honors lifetime achievement, distinguished service in journalism. 11.08.06

Speech at MTSU commencement, May 2003

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